Phenomenon Project Based Learning Series: Food Science & Culture

Phenomenon Based Learning (PhBL) is a multi-disciplinary form of learning that approaches a topic (phenomenon) initially from a bird's eye view. PhBL was developed as a means to address the growing need for learning experiences which encounter and solve real-world issues while being aligned to 21st century skills. The topic or concept is deconstructed into distinct yet interdependent aspects. The learning then spirals full circle to encompass the topic or concept holistically.

PhBL SPOTLIGHT: Food Science & Culture

We are SO thrilled to share this PhBL concept that emerged from a design team collaboration here in Washington State as we support the opening of Cascade Charter School. Our design team developed multiple concepts for PhBL experiences before involving students and community members in selecting the most relevant concepts and contributing to their continued development for what will become the 9th grade PhBL curriculum.

We hope these concepts will seed some ideas with you!

Phenomenon: Sharing Food Brings People Together

Guiding Question(s):

Where does my food come from?

How does food build community?

What is “good” food?

Do people eat better now than in the past?

How do foods differ depending on where we live?

How can we make our school lunches as tasty and nutritious as possible?

Context Anchors:

Key dishes of different cultures

Diets and daily foods of different cultures

Food science/body systems/allergies/nutrition

Food sources/distribution/waste

Cooking & baking skills

Modern & historical trade/commerce (triangle trade)

Documentaries “Water, Air, Heat” “Fed Up”

Books: “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” “Food Rules” “Fast Food Nation” “Seed Folks”

Edible & Medicinal plants/foods


Event: Community lunches/cultural food sharing & hosting

Publishing community cookbook w/ recipes and narrative histories to sale at exhibition

Ingredient trace research (cinnamon, sugar, etc.)

Food bank community service


Cooking with sustainable ingredients (insects)





Anatomy & Physiology

History/Social Studies:






Area (garden)

Ratios of baking

Graphing resources

Adult World Connections:

Community gardens

Food banks


Local international food stores

Grocery stores/farmers markets

“Eat with Muslims”